Sunday, September 24, 2023

Coming very soon: This Is Who We Are Now

Mark your calendars, kids. October 23 is the big day. The one we've all been waiting for for a good long while now. Well, some of us. Me, anyway.

That's right, the new book is coming out next month. This Is Who We Are Now will be available for sale in both ebook and paperback format 29 mere days from now.

What's it all about? Well, since you asked:

Family vacations can be dreaded, stressful, boring, and contentious. And sometimes they can be even worse.

On the brink of a milestone birthday he'd rather not celebrate, Henry Bradfield returns to his childhood home in Vermont to find his old belongings are the hottest items at his parents' garage sale. When Henry learns that his prized Spider-Man comics were sold to the son of his high school sweetheart, Erin Chadwick, suddenly vintage collectibles aren't the only things making him feel nostalgic.

Tensions in the house rise as a long-simmering rivalry with his younger brother heats up, all while Henry's own teenage sons are butting heads. His wife, Denise, becomes increasingly distant toward him and his parents, who she feels have never truly embraced her. Amidst the chaos, another chance encounter with Erin leads Henry to ponder what might have been. His only confidant is his alcoholic sister, Margo, who is wrestling with her own relationship issues.

When Denise disappears without saying good-bye, Henry must decide whether the thrill of rekindling an old flame is worth risking his stable, if all too routine, marriage.

At this point, it's down to crossing some i's and dotting some t's. Once I get the final cover files, the book will go up for presale on Amazon in both Kindle ($5.99) and print formats ($12.95). And then time will start speeding up on me (in a good way, mostly).

Stay tuned.

Friday, September 22, 2023

Amazon cracking down on AI "authors"

Call me old-school, or just call me old, but I am so not interested in AI anything. I remember when AI stood for Allen Iverson. He was a heck of a lot more real than today's AI, Art Ificialintelligence.

New-school AI is taking over everywhere. We're supposed to cogitate on how we can utilize it at work. Job seekers use it to craft their resumes. Companies use it to sift through those resumes and determine who's worthy of an interview. You can't scroll your LinkedIn feed for two seconds without passing three stories about it, posted by the usual suckups who are trying to impress their bosses, if not their future robot overlords.

Lawyers use it to craft briefs, sometimes to hilarious effect, at least for those of us who weren't sanctioned by the judge for including made-up legal citations. College students use it to write essays. Musicians use AI to craft new songs or to clean up old ones. And some non-musicians use it to create songs as well.

Sorry, but as an old-school old guy, it just all feels like cheating to me.

Some of it literally is. We now have people publishing AI books under the names of legit authors, earning the ire of best-sellers like Jane Friedman, whose name was affixed to books written neither by her nor any other human. Amazon took action, removing them from the world's largest online book store.

It is now taking things a step further, asking self-publishers to declare whether AI was used in creating their new release. Authors are asked, "Did you use AI tools in creating texts, images, and/or translations in your book?" As long as they're not attempting to defraud readers, as in the case where they listed books under a legit author's name, they can still publish the work. And as of now, I can't find any indication on book listings to indicate the author used or didn't use AI. My guess is that will come soon.

Amazon is also implementing rules to limit self-publishers on its Kindle Direct Publishing platform to three titles a day, which crystalizes their overall goal here a bit. They are cracking down on ebook mills. This is really all about fraud.

And I'm so here for that.

Writing books is hard work. Writing music is hard work. Writing legal briefs is hard work. And if you take shortcuts, well, maybe that's a good thing in some cases, but it ought to be noted. I want to know if a book was written by a human or a robot. Because I'm not paying robots to write books. I don't care if I can't tell the difference (though I bet I could).

When I find an author I like, I tend to read a lot of their stuff. I go a bit fan boy on occasion. I identify with them. I want to support them, advocate for them. Same with bands. If I like a group, I will gladly buy their CDs (yes, CDs, I wasn't kidding, I'm old). I will follow them on social media. I want to know when they're on tour, even if I'll never get to see them play live. I want to know when their new album is coming out. I want to feel like I know them well enough to know they're decent human beings.

That they're human beings, period.

I don't care if AI can craft the catchiest earworm, I'm not listening to it. I'm not paying one rouge centime for it.

I listen to different music at different times to suit the mood and emotion of the moment. Human moods and emotions, matched by music written and played by humans who have felt similar emotions. I read fiction to scratch a similar emotional itch. I'm not reading any tear-jerkers crafted by a robot who can't cry. I'm not laughing along with text written by a robot who can't laugh.

And, yeah, I get it, AI isn't written by actual robots. Just one more strike against it, really. I might read Rosey's memoir to learn what it was really like to work for the Jetsons. And tip me off when Marvin the Paranoid Android's account of life on the Heart of Gold hits the press.

But let's just say no to robots with no personality, no pedigree, no legitimacy, and no credibility.

And let's thank Amazon for taking this very small, and quite possibly not significant-enough step to slow the AI roll. Even if all we're doing is slapping "Non-GMO" labels on our organic books, at least we're acknowledging the issue. It's a start.